Pivotal Response Therapy

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Pivotal Response Therapy, or PRT, was developed by Dr. Robert L. Koegel and Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pivotal Response Treatment was previously called the Natural Language Paradigm (NLP), which has been in development since the 1970s. It is a behavioural intervention model based on the principles of ABA.

PRT is used to teach language, decrease disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviours, and increase social, communication, and academic skills by focusing on critical, or “pivotal,” behaviours that affect a wide range of behaviours. The primary pivotal behaviours are motivation and child’s initiations of communications with others.

The goal of PRT is to produce positive changes in the pivotal behaviours, leading to improvement in communication skills, play skills, social behaviours and the child’s ability to monitor his own behaviour. Unlike the Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) method of teaching, which targets individual behaviours based on an established curriculum, PRT is child-directed. Motivational strategies are used throughout intervention as often as possible. These include the variation of tasks, revisiting mastered tasks to ensure the child retains acquired skills, rewarding attempts, and the use of direct and natural reinforcement. The child plays a crucial role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in the PRT exchange. For example, a child’s purposeful attempts at functional communication are rewarded with reinforcement related to their effort to communicate (for example, if a child attempts a request for a stuffed animal, the child receives the animal).


Autism Canada does not endorse treatments, interventions and therapies but lists them so people can make informed choice.  This site is for information purposes only and is a starting point for readers to look into options that may fit or resonate.  Remember, therapies for autism, like any condition, should be discussed with a trusted medical practitioner or certified therapist before use.

All information, data and material contained, presented or provided here is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed as reflecting the knowledge or opinions of Autism Canada, or as providing legal or medical advice. All treatment decisions should be made by the individual in consultation with a licensed health care provider.

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